Bringing The War Home

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Bringing The War Home


David M. Rorvik




Police state, Big Brother, Tasers, Nonlethal weapons, UAVs, Brain implants, Datamining, RFID tracking


This article was written by David M. Rorvik.

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We got out of Vietnam, right? So the cops are using sensors that were field-tested on the ho chi mink trail and surveillance devices they can plant in your brain, now, if they could just call an air strike at park and 56th...

From the first "peace scare" on, there was corporate, military and bureaucratic breast-beating and brain-trusting over the question: What will we do when the war in Vietnam is over? The enterprising answer that finally emerged: Bring it home. As early as 1967, Paul Baran of the RAND Corporation, the California think tank that attempts - successfully at times - to make prophecy a science, envisioned the use of exotic surveillance technologies on the domestic law-and-order front. He worried that "by moving in this direction, we could easily end up with the most effective, oppressive police state ever created"; observed that "any new device created solely with a legitimate police activity in mind can and will probably be misused"; cautioned that the "new technologists must be men of high ethics"; and then went on to concede that high ethics have "never been regarded by my technical colleagues as a necessary prerequisite for those in the trade." He predicted that ways would be found to rationalize the development of domestic surveillance devices and, indeed, finally came to the rationalized conclusion himself that "the high payoff possible by investing more in technological development is so great that it would be shortsighted to outlaw the development of many of these new devices."

Government and industry obviously agreed. By 1969, the newly established Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA) of the Department of Justice had $63,000,000 to help local police Americanize some of the war technology and, in general, to develop more sophisticated weapons for the "war on crime." By 1971, the LEAA budget had rocketed to $180,000,000 and today is somewhere close to the one billion dollar mark. The House Subcommittee on Legal and Monetary Affairs, in a report critical of the new organization, noted that "no Federal grant-in-aid program has ever received a more rapid increase in appropriated funds than LEAA."

Ways were soon found to help Government, business and academic communities share this new fortune. Among other things, LEAA is pumping millions of dollars into new police-science programs - reminiscent of the now largely defunct R.O.T.C. - at universities across the land. And at a Carnahan Conference on Electronic Crime Countermeasures, a symposium that is conducted each year at the University of Kentucky for a number of law-and-order interests, Howard E. Trent, at the time Kentucky's assistant attorney general, told attending corporate engineers and law enforcement personnel that "there is a great unrestricted area of electronic surveillance and electronic countercrime measures in which there needs to be expansion and further innovation." Stressing that legal restrictions on surveillance are few, he rallied the assembled with the intelligence that "the challenge is wide open."

By 1972, according to the Electronics Industries Association, U.S. corporations were accepting the challenge to the tune of $400,000,000. Their production of surveillance devices, "command-and-control" systems and police communications equipment under LEAA and other Government-agency grants was described by Electronics magazine as "part of a Nixon Administration shifting of resources from the Defense Department into domestic programs." Robert Barkan, an electronics engineer, writing in New Scientist, summed up the situation more directly: "American companies, faced with dwindling Federal funds for aerospace and defense, are eagerly looking for new markets. Surveillance equipment for the home front is a particularly easy transfer of Vietnam technology... To industry, the choice is clear. The extent of its concern for the way technology can best serve humanity was succinctly expressed a few years ago by a vice-president of the giant Avco Corporation: 'We have a modest amount of altruism and a lot of interest in profits.'" Martin Danziger, asked while he was serving as assistant administrator of LEAA whether a number of Buck Rogers-type weapons now being developed for control of domestic criminals, rioters and "dissidents" were really necessary, replied, "The business community has taken substantial interest in them, and I have faith in their judgment," Former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, under whom an embryonic LEAA was formed, warned that the organization "could be a disaster... funds that aren't specifically set aside for riot control could end up being spent to stockpile arms for use during riots or demonstrations. It's another potential, and an enormous one, for repression."

There is evidence that this potential is already being realized. Law and order has become big business. The Chicago police have an annual budget of nearly $100,000,000, the New York City police have more than $350,000,000 - both big enough to qualify for Fortune's list of the 500 largest corporations. Some 40,000 police agencies, employing nearly hall a million people, are clamoring for a bigger piece of the rapidly expanding action. And they're getting it. Congressional Quarterly reports that even some lowly backwash police departments, far from the front lines of Harlem and Watts, are getting equipment, including helicopters and tanklike vehicles, sufficient to quell small armies. One small community in Ohio, for example, recently acquired $230,000 worth of patrol cars, guns, gas masks and assorted other riot-control equipment, even though there has never been any hint of a disturbance in that area. Similarly, a small cow town in Montana got enough Mace to stop a giant stampede.

As the war technology is Americanized, the demand for ever more exotic surveillance and riot-control equipment is being answered. Start with our 3.25-billion-dollar "computerized battlefield," a complex of sensors strung along the Ho Chi Minh trail. Task Force Alpha, as it was called, was largely a failure, frequently mistaking wandering water buffalo for truck convoys. After bombing the hell out of animals, winds wafting through the buffalo grass and even raindrops - all of which activated the sensors - the Defense Department unplugged its rampaging white elephant and brought it home. Now the Justice Department's Border Patrol is trying to put it to more effective use detecting drug smugglers along the Mexican-American border. Remote-controlled pilotless aircraft developed for use in Vietnam may also be used to monitor the sensors and relay data to computer centers. There has been some Congressional opposition, but Sylvania Electronics Svstems, which proposed the project, has sought to calm the uneasy in Government with the statement (contained in a "proprietary" report) that "the political implications of using surveillance equipment along a friendly foreign border have been considered by selecting equipment that can be deployed without attracting attention and easily concealed."

Other devices developed for use against the Viet Cong have been declassified and diverted to the home front. Among them are black boxes that can "see" through walls and low-light television systems chat can spot a man in extreme darkness half a mile or more away. The black boxes - foliage-penetration radar developed by the Army to ferret out guerrillas in thick Vietnam jungles - are now being modified to penetrate brick and cinder-block walls. They are said to be useful in controlling civil disturbances.

Night-vision devices, employing recently declassified war components, are selling briskly to police. The devices can be mounted on guns, police cars, helicopters and building tops, then linked to closed-circuit TV systems that scan entire city blocks. The Singer Company, which manufactures some of the light-intensifying devices, notes that they have been effectively used "to monitor suspicious group meetings." In a number of cities, including San Jose, California, Hoboken, New Jersey, and Mt. Vernon, New York, police have set up hidden 24 hour surveillance systems to watch city streets. Despite citizen opposition to the Peeping Tom cameras, some of which are capable of penetrating apartment windows, a Government advisory committee has recommended that several million dollars be spent to establish a pilot 24-hour TV surveillance system covering nearly 60 miles of Brooklyn streets, giving those monitoring the cameras (at a modest two dollars per hour) the fringe benefit of being able to zoom in on everything from a first-class mugging to a teenage petting session beneath the once protective shadow of an elm tree.

In another 24-hour surveillance system funded by the Justice Department, the state of Delaware was given a number of civilian trucks that, according to the grant, "are to be used as the basis on which patrol is to be conducted under covert conditions; e.g., uniforms of dry cleaners, salesmen, public utilities, etc., make it possible to be in a neighborhood without being obvious." The equipment was designed for covert photography "of persons whose activities are suspicious in nature."

Beyond those devices whose roots can be traced directly to the war in Vietnam, a perusal of some of the recent "Proceedings" of the Carnahan Conferences reveal the development of a wide array of new law-and-order gadgetry, either proposed or in the making, including "crime-predicting" computers, electronic license plate scanners; national computerized fingerprint analyzers and data banks linked to orbiting police satellites that instantaneously relay information on individuals; postal X-ray machines that peep into letters and packages without breaking seals; bio-luminescent bacteria that light up if you're stoned; hidden lie-detector machines that measure stress in your voice; "hand-held" dogs that are carried through crowds to sniff out drugs and explosives; hidden magnetic detectors and "low-dosage" X-ray machines that examine your body without your knowledge. Other documents, such as a report entitled "Communication for Social Needs," prepared for former Presidential assistant John D. Ehrlichman, reveal that the Nixon Administration concocted a plan that would require the installation of FM receivers in every boat, automobile, radio and television set, thereby enabling the Government to propagandize day and night if desired. (Another Nixon proposal called for devices that could automatically turn radio and television sets on and tune them to "emergency" messages.) When the FM plan was exposed by Representative William S. Moorhead, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Government Information, Dr. Edward E. David, Jr.. director of the White House Office of Science and Technology, denied that there was any intention of actually implementing the plan. Representative Moorhead remains skeptical, calling the plan a "blueprint for the Big Brother propaganda and spy system which George Orwell warned about in his novel 1984. The fact that the Government has been testing a system that would give it access to private homes raises serious questions about the truthfulness of Dr. David's statement."

But Big Brother must come equipped with more than just exotic ears. To be truly effective, he must also be able to deliver swift and persuasive punishment to those who stray too far or dissent too vigorously. Hence the emergence of a dazzling night gallery of "nonlethal weapons": the "photic driver," which delivers a toxic combination of light and sound pulses, inducing in the uncooperative epilepticlike "flicker fits'" (giddiness, nausea, fainting and even convulsions); the Shok Baton, an electronic prod: the Stun-Gun, which fires pellet-filled canvas bags capable of knocking a man down at a range of up to 300 feet; "limited-lethality riot projectiles," such as 12 gauge shotgun shells filled with plastic pellets; plastic bubbles that immobilize rioters; indelible dyes to mark dissidents and make them easier to apprehend once crowds have been dispersed; darts loaded with immobilizing drugs; the "banana peel," a chemical that makes the ground so slick that one can neither walk nor drive on it; the "cold-brine projector." which slaps the dissident in the face with an incapacitating blast of icy liquid; the "instant cocoon." which sprays crowds with an adhesive substance that actually makes individuals stick together; and the "taser," a gun that fires electrified barbs that paralyze the victim.

Malignant as some of these command-and-control systems sound (and they are the same that LEAA endorses owing to the fact that "the business community has taken substantial interest in them"), they are not even remotely as diabolical as Big Brother's subtler weapons - the electronic "conditioners" that seek to change as well as deter the dissident. One of the most alarming proposals in the realm of behavioral engineering is that of Joseph Meyer, a computer expert in the supersecret National Security Agency. Writing in the IEEE Transactions on Aerospace and Electronic Systems, Meyer explains in exhaustive detail a system in which 25,000,000 Americans would be forced to wear miniature tracking devices ("transponders") linked by radio signals to centralized computers. "Attaching transponders to arrestees and criminals," he says, "will put them into an electronic surveillance system that will make it very difficult for them to commit crimes, or even to violate territorial or curfew restrictions, without immediate apprehension."

It would be a felony, under his plan, to remove the transponders and, in any event, it couldn't be done without the computer's knowledge. The devices would be attached as a condition of parole or bail, but Meyer sees them being used for "monitoring aliens and political subgroups" as well. Heaping insult on injury, he proposes to pay for the system by leasing the devices to the "subscribers"; i.e,, those who are obliged to wear them, "at a low cost, say five dollars per week." Thus, he declares, is poetic justice achieved.

Meyer, however, is not without heart. He observes that the criminal poor and other minorities are at a disadvantage in learning how to "get along" in our generally affluent society. He concedes that these minorities need more than "a long apprenticeship" learning to fit in. And that's where his transponders come in. They can provide the deprived, he says, with "a kind of externalized conscience - an electronic substitute for the social conditioning, group pressures and inner motivations" that keep most of us in line. For these people, he declares, an externalized conscience is as necessary as "a heart pacer [is] to a cardiac patient."

Even less is left to chance in a plan outlined by self-described "social gadgeteer" Ralph Schwitzgebel, Harvard psychologist and pioneering behavioral engineer. In a monograph published under a National Institute or Mental Health (Center for Studies of Crime and Delinquency) contract, Schwitzgebel describes a plan that would literally bug the body. It involves attaching and implanting miniaturised radio transmitters on and inside the bodies and brains of subjects in need of "rehabilitation," not only to monitor their conversations, locations and even sexual responses but to deliver electrical shocks whenever needed to counter undesired speech, behavior or physiological responses. Schwitzgebel dwells at length on the problem of "sex offenders," particularly homosexuals, noting that there are now devices available that can detect even the most minute penile changes. In the event of an "inappropriate" erection, the programmer - computer or human - can zap the offender with corrective kilovolts (at low amperage) and thus, over a period of time, effect a "cure." Schwitzgebel says he recognizes, as a lawyer as well as a psychologist, the threat such a plan poses to individual civil liberties hut then proceeds to suggest ways in which the system could be implemented without provoking a constitutional crisis. In the meantime, he's holding a patent on a nonremovable wrist transmitter of his own design.

Perhaps the most terrifying part of the Schwitzgebel scenario involves the brave new world of E.S.B. - electronic stimulation of the brain. Human subjects have already been wired with implanted brain electrodes. The result is that human programmers can electronically order some of their subjects' actions and emotions simply by pulsing radio signals into specific parts of their brains at the desired moments. Dr. José M. R. Delgado, until recently of the Yale School of Medicine, a leading E.S.B. researcher, notes that lab animals "with implanted electrodes have been made to perform a variety of responses with predictable reliability as if they were electronic toys under human control."

Dr. Barton L. Ingraham of the School of Criminology at the University of California at Berkeley suggests that bugging the brain could provide not only continuous surveillance of those with "criminal tendencies" but also "automatic deterrence or 'blocking' of the criminal activity by electronic stimulation of the brain prior to the commission of the act."

Dr. Ingraham concedes that the use of E.S.B. would "require a Government with virtually total powers" but sees a number of things in its favor, including the fact that it would be "completely effective" and "relatively cheap." As for the economy of the matter, an electrical engineer named Curtis Schafer agrees: "The once-human being thus controlled would be the cheapest of machines to create and operate."

So far, the new behavioral engineers and "psychotechnologists" have confined themselves to the prisons, which many of them obviously regard as convenient laboratories in which they can utilize human subjects whose civil liberties are not only dimly defined by society but poorly understood by the subjects themselves. At a 1962 symposium of social scientists and correctional administrators, James V. Bennett, then director of the U.S. Bureau of Prison*, was already urging the assembled to take advantage of the "tremendous opportunity afforded by the 24,000 men then in the Federal prison system - "to carry on some of the experimenting to which the various panelists have alluded... We here in Washington are anxious to have you undertake some of these things; do things perhaps on your own - undertake a little experiment of what you can do with the Muslims, what you can do with some of the sociopath individuals."

Among the things "alluded" to at that symposium were brainwashing techniques perfected by the North Koreans and biochemical restraints. By the late Sixties, some penal staffs included "prison thought-reform teams" that subjected the troublesome inmate to intensive group pressures, ridicule and humiliation in an effort to help him be "reborn" as "winner in the game of life." Drugs, aversion therapies that utilize pain and anxiety, sensory deprivation in which the subject is isolated from all or most stimuli, planned stress and psychosurgery might all come into play in the course of winning a new convert. Candidates for these elaborate therapies are often characterized in penal reports as uncooperative and revolutionary.

Jessica Mitford, in her book 'Kind & Usual Punishment', tells of a Maximum Psychiatric Diagnostic Unit (M.P.D.U.) for 84 convicts selected from various California penal units to serve as research subjects. Most, she observes, were chosen for having shown "disrespect for authority" or "because they are suspected of harboring subversive beliefs." (Thus, the Soviet tendency of equating dissidence with insanity, of the sort that might even justify radical psychosurgery, shows signs of proving equally useful in the "free world," or at least its prisons.)

Just what the M.P.D.U. 84 could expect was suggested at an assembly of behavioral engineers at the University of California at Davis in 1971. "We need to dope up many of these men in order to calm them down to the point that they are accessible to treatment," one suggested. "We also need to find out how he thinks covertly and to change how he thinks." said another "Those who can't be controlled by drugs are candidates for the implantation of subcortical electrodes." One psychotechnologist calculated that at least ten percent of the men would "benefit" from psychosurgery designed to burn out the "source of aggressive behavior."

The courts have recently intervened to halt, temporarily, at least, some prison psychosurgery, concluding that prisoners are incapable of bona fide voluntary consent. Public outcry in other quarters has persuaded LEAA to withdraw the support it was previously giving several psychosurgeons. The psychotechnologists, however, continue to do battle. Dr. Ingraham is busy trying to persuade the authorities that the potential abuses of brain implants have been much exaggerated. In a recent Department of Justice monograph, he writes. "The new liberalism is... fanatical on the issue of extending legal due process into areas which were once considered reserved for the exercise of knowledgeable administrative discretion." Dr. Delgado, meanwhile, has removed his research to Spain for the time being. And in California, Ronald Reagan's proposed Center for the Study of Violence, previously shot down by fears that it would engage in improper experimentation, has been restored under a new name.

Finally, World Medicine, in 1973, six years after Paul Baran's prophetic RAND report, revealed that RAND was carrying out "exhaustive studies of 2000 cases of torture in South Vietnam to assess the viability of the methods used by U.S. forces." Could even this ugly part of the war be coming home?

Has 1984 arrived - ten years premature and crackling with teratological technologies that make Orwell's world look inefficiently quaint by comparison? The transponder generation has so far only been conceived, not yet hatched, and E S.B. is still only a few barbs in a few brains. But upper-case Law and Order continues to grow, at the expense of personal liberty and privacy, and to grow by great leaps and bounds, involving not only the police and industry but even the military, which, with time on its hands, is looking for (and finding) a new enemy at home.

The Senate Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights recently revealed that the Armed Forces have been compiling massive computerised data banks on civilians, many of whom have never even been arrested. The military regards those on its lists not as "loyal Americans exercising constitutional rights but [as] 'dissident forces' that "billet" and 'assemble', carry 'weapons' and 'explosives,' contain 'an organized sniper 'element' and coordinate their assaults on 'targets' and 'objectives' with 'communications equipment.' Civil disturbance operations thus will be similar to counterinsurgency warfare (or counterinsurgency war games), in which military units will be the 'friendly forces' and demonstrators the 'opposing forces.'" The men in the domestic war rooms, the subcommittee found, "kept records not unlike those maintained by their counterparts in the computerized war rooms in Saigon."

The subcommittee reported that Army Intelligence alone had "reasonably current files on the political activities of at least 100,000 civilians unaffiliated with the Armed Forces," and could draw upon an additional "25,000,000 index cards representing files on individuals and 760,000 cards representing files on organizations and incidents" compiled by other Government agencies. Much of the information contained in the military files, including financial, psychiatric and sexual data, the subcommittee discovered, had been gathered by covert means. "Convicted spies joined Nobel Prize winners and entries from Who's Who in the files." the report states, adding that the files pose a "clear and present danger to the privacy and freedom of thousands of American citizens - citizens whose onlv 'offense' was to stand on their hind legs and exercise rights they thought the Constitution guaranteed them."

The Young Democrats, the Liberal Party of new York, the league of Women Voters of the U.S.A. and even the Peace Corps were indiscriminately lumped in the files with the Communist Party of China and the Hell's Angels of California. Those listed as subversive included the NAACP, the American Friends Service Committee and a number of Congressmen and governors. "Short notations," the subcommittee reported, commented on the individual's political beliefs, actions or associations. For example, one person had 'numerous pro-Communist associates.' Another, a young black male with no arrest record, was described as an 'extremely radical, militant individual.' Other characterizations were... 'one of the most active Communists in the Cincinnati area'... 'reported to be a psycho'... 'wants to abolish the House Un-American Activities Committee,' 'paranoid trends'... 'participant, anti-Vietnam war demonstrations'... 'has Red background.'" One nationally known civil-rights leader was said to be "a sex pervert" and was "known to have many known affiliations." One individual was damned for having been "active in the state of Texas" (no further information), another for "failure to comply with school policy involving female students."

The absurdity of all this is summed up in the following "intelligence" report, which would be funny were it not delivered in such deadly (and costly) earnest: "A. First The Crazies [an offshoot of the Youth International Party, better known as the Yippies] plan to enter Bellevue Hospital, located at 467 First Avenue, New York City, with toy guns and steal one of the patients out of the hospital. The Crazies plan to put a strait jacket on one of their own members, sneak him into Bellevue, and then other Crazies with the toy guns plan to enter and steal the patient. B. After they leave Bellevue, The Crazies plan to travel to the Staten Island Ferrv and board the boat which travels between lower New York City and Staten Island. They plan to enter the boat peacefully, i.e., paying their way and not jumping over the rail, and when they get on board they plan to threaten the boat's captain by demanding that he take them to Cuba. When the captain obviously refuses to do so, they plan to rush to one side and threaten to 'tip the boat over.'" This is followed by the sobering statement that "Military personnel traveling to New York City often use the Staten Island Ferry."

The Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights found that hundreds of copies of the military's voluminous surveillance files and reports were distributed throughout Government agencies, including NASA. After the Secretary of Defense (then Melvin Laird) ordered, under pressure, the Army to destroy all dossiers on civilians in 1971, the subcommittee unearthed considerable evidence of "deception, cover-up and noncompliance with the order, indicating that files had sometimes been hidden or disguised. "All of these incidents of deception," the subcommittee concluded in 1973, "indicate that Army intelligence simply cannot be trusted to monitor and police its own system." Nor did the Senators believe that the Department of Defense could be so trusted. Meanwhile, one committee aide points out, "We never did get a chance to look at the files of the other branches of the military. Who knows what's happening there?" Some, such as Representative Moorhead, believe that other Government agencies, such as the Special Analysis Division of the Office of Emergency Preparedness in agency that until June 17, 1972, employed James W. McCord, Jr., may have "assumed" some of the Army dossiers.

Thomas Powers, commenting on these files in Atlantic Monthly, asks, "Are the students who went south on the Freedom Rides, who marched against the war, who protested secret weapons research on college campuses, who resisted the draft or were beaten by police in Chicago, or who stalked out of commencement speeches by Government officials going to be forced to explain themselves for the rest of their lives? Movements come and go, but the files go on forever."

"The new technology," Senator Sam Ervin stated on the floor of the Senate, "has made it literally impossible for a man to start again in our society. It has removed the quality of mercy from our institutions by making it impossible to forget, to forgive, to understand, to tolerate... The undisputed and unlimited possession of the resources to build and operate data banks on individuals, and to make decisions about people with the aid of computers and electronic data systems, is fast securing to Executive branch officials a political power which the authors of the Constitution never meant any one group of men to have over all others."

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